OXNARD, Calif. – At no point in the past few years has Brandon Carr pretended he's oblivious to the criticism – not of himself or of the Cowboys defense as a whole.
Training camp is still fresh, given that the Cowboys don't put even on pads until Monday afternoon. But one of the obvious storylines of the early going is the difficulty facing this defense.
"We read the papers and see the news. We understand the position we're in right now," Carr said.
There's obviously the fact that the defense is facing three lengthy suspensions – one to Rolando McClain and two to defensive ends DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory. Heading into 2016, the Cowboys will have to do without last year's leader in sacks and last year's third-leading tackler.
"Football and sports – it's the next-man-up mentality," Carr said. "Things happen throughout the season, all types of adversities, controversies – whatever the case. You can't make an excuse, you can't figure out why. You just have to figure out how you're going to get the next person ready."
That's an admirable mentality, but it also leads to the uncomfortable truth that the Cowboys were horrendous at forcing takeaways last year.
In 2015, they finished dead-last in the NFL with 11 total takeaways – eight interceptions and three fumble recoveries. Of the cornerbacks currently in camp with the team, only Deji Olatoye managed an interception last year. It's a subject that's been hammered into the ground, and only improvement will make it go away.
"We've been harping on it for many a moons, but it just comes down to effort – 11 guys running to the ball, expecting to come out every single play," Carr said. "It comes down to situational awareness, trying to get a bead on the offense – trying to get that extra advantage of when we can get the jump on the ball and kind of anticipating throws."
If ever there was a time for optimism, it's in the summer – when teams are still coming together, before games have been played. The secondary also has the benefit of having all of its members healthy, as Orlando Scandrick is back from his knee injury, while Morris Claiborne and Barry Church are at 100 percent after finishing the season on the injury report.
"We have all the potential in the world," Carr said. "But it's up to us right now at this time of the season to grind it out, sharpen our skills, get better every single day. It's the little details that show up big in the games. Things look good on paper, but we want to come out here and work every day, compete our butts off and be as ready as we can for Sundays."